Big Foot – Michael Specter
How do we alter human behavior significantly enough to limit global warming? Personal choices, no matter how virtuous, cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.
In “Why Bother?” Michael Pollon response to Specter, looking at the mind set which creates individual apathy in the face of alarming climate change issues.
Here’s the point: Cheap energy, which gives us climate change, fosters precisely the mentality that makes dealing with climate change in our own lives seem impossibly difficult. Specialists ourselves, we can no longer imagine anyone but an expert, or anything but a new technology or law, solving our problems.
I almost agree with him. It is true we do not see the value of ourselves as individual actors on a world stage. But it is not because of specialisation that we feel powerless. It is because for the past generation, we have been indoctrinated into the belief that free markets determine the ultimate good.
Individual efforts in the face of the human tide may be virtuous but ineffective.
The supple of energy and thus carbon emissions are fixed: my change in demand only affects the price. So my reduction in demand simply makes it cheaper for some Chinese guy to put another gallon into his new car.
The Answer is Hoarding
In fact given this paradigm, the only thing that might save planet earth at this point are the spiralling oil prices.
If someone with very deep pockets wanted to make a real change, they would buy oil and hoard it – driving up prices without releasing the carbon they had purchased.
It’s also probably a good long term investment that would pay off well over the next 20-40 years.
The personal equivalent would be a mass movement that encourages individuals to hoard and drive up prices.
Of course if this gained any traction it would probably be outlawed and/or cause massive panic. It would certainly exacerbate climbing food prices which are partly tied to the cost of transportation and fertilizer (of which petrochemicals are a major component).
The problem with the entire equation is that those who waste the most have the largest disposable incomes to weather the increased cost of energy.
Plan B: The Plague.
Pollon: Grow your own garden
I would like to but so far all my experiments with veggies on a tropical balcony have been destroyed by bugs…